Anantara and Samanantara Paccayā

Revised February 12, 2020; August 7, 2022

Critical Roles of Causes (Hetu) and Conditions (Paccayā)

1. An action or a deed is a kamma. That kamma was done with an intention and led to creating kammic energy that COULD bring vipāka in the future. Such kammic energies act as causes to bring vipāka. But such vipāka is not guaranteed.

  • There must be suitable conditions (paccayā) that must be there for such vipāka to materialize.

2. The easiest way is to consider the following example: A seed contains the necessary ingredients (causes) for bringing up a new tree. But just because a seed is there, a tree will not come into existence. If the seed is in a cool, dry place, one could keep it that way for a long time. Or one could burn or crush it, and it will never bring up a tree.

  • SUITABLE CONDITIONS must be present for causes to bring about corresponding effects. That is what paccayā means.
  • If a seed is planted in fertile soil and water and sunlight are provided, it will germinate and give rise to a tree.
  • When such suitable conditions are present, causes WILL bring about corresponding effects. Thus when an event takes place under the right conditions, it is called “paccuppanna, “i.e., born (“uppanna “) via suitable conditions (“paccayā. “) Of course, root causes must be there, to begin with.
All Kamma Do Not Lead to Vipāka

3. That is the reason why kamma vipāka is not deterministic. In the post, “What is Kamma? – Is Everything Determined by Kamma?” I mentioned it, and here we will discuss it in detail.

  • When we commit a good or an evil deed, the kammic potential or energy associated with that deed remains as a kamma bīja or a kamma seed. We will eventually get to the question of “where it is stored,” but we just need to remember that a kamma seed is not a physical seed but energy or potential. This concept is described in the post, “Saṅkhāra, Kamma, Kamma Bīja, Kamma Vipaka.”
  • The germination of a kamma seed, though, has some similarities to the germination of a physical seed, for example, an apple seed. The apple seed has the potential to bring about an apple tree. Still, the seed will not germinate until suitable conditions for germination are present. The seed needs to be in the soil, and water and sunlight must be provided for germination.
  • In the same way, kamma vipāka (the result of a past kamma) can come to fruition only with the conditions for the corresponding kamma seed to germinate.
Anantara and Samanantara Relations

4. Let us look at the anantara and samanantara relations as discussed in the Patthāna Dhamma (book on “Conditional Relations” in Abhidhamma):

  • An” means food or, in this case, the kamma seed; “antara” means storage, waiting to bear fruit. Thus, anantara (“an” + “antara”) means a kamma seed waiting to germinate.
  • Sama” means equal or similar. Thus samanantara (“sama” + “antara”) means “matching conditions” with the antara.
  • Therefore, for a kamma vipāka to materialize, both anantara and samanantara must be there.
  • By the way, ānantara with a long “ā” (as in ānantariya kamma) means something entirely different; see, “Ānantariya Kamma – Connection to Gandhabba.”
Some Analogies/Examples

5. Here is one analogy the Buddha gave. If one prepares a plot by preparing the soil, providing water, and if sunlight is also available, the samanantara for a seed to germinate is there. However, unless one starts with an apple seed (i.e., if anantara is not there), an apple tree cannot grow.

  • On the other hand, if one keeps the apple seed in a cool, dry place, it will not germinate since the samanantara condition is not met.
  • Results appear when both anantara and samanantara conditions are met. Thus, when one plants an apple seed in a suitable plot, it will germinate and become an apple tree.
  • Furthermore, a mango tree will not result from an apple seed. Thus samanantara will give rise to a result matching the “seed” in the anantara.

6. More examples can be given these days that are related to modern technology. If a radio station is broadcasting a radio program, that is the anantara. The seed energy is available anywhere within a specific range. But one cannot listen to the program without a radio. Even if someone has a radio, one cannot listen to the broadcast unless the receiver is tuned to the correct frequency. When those conditions are met, one could hear the program.

  • Kamma vipāka can bring results via “instant communication” when the conditions become right. All kammic potentials are in “instant contact” with us via a concept similar to that described in quantum entanglement: see, “Quantum Entanglement – We Are All Connected.” Thus all potential kamma seeds are waiting in anantara and can bring about instant results when the right conditions (samanantara) appear.
Many Bad Vipāka Can be Avoided by Being Mindful

7. By being mindful, we can avoid many past bad kamma seeds from coming to fruition. We make sure that samanantara conditions are not present. If one goes out at night in a bad neighborhood that provides fertile ground for a past bad kamma seed to germinate and the kamma vipāka to take place.

  • In the same way, we can force “good” kamma seeds to germinate by providing the right conditions. For example, even if we have enough merits (i.e., a good kamma seed) that could make us pass a test or get a job, unless we make the right conditions (i.e., prepare in advance), we may not get the results.
  • But sometimes, one gets an unexpected promotion or better results than anticipated in a test if the kamma seeds are potent.

8. From our past innumerable lives, we have accumulated countless kamma seeds, both good and bad. Some of the stronger ones bear fruit no matter what we do, especially the ānantariya kamma vipāka.

  • But in general, by being mindful (i.e., by NOT providing appropriate conditions), we can avoid many bad kamma vipāka. By making the right preparations (i.e., by optimizing samanantara conditions), we can exploit those good kamma seeds.
  • A particularly important case is bringing up a child. The parents and teachers have considerable responsibility for providing the right conditions for that young mind to develop. In particular, association with bad friends can direct a young life in the wrong direction; in the same way, association with good friends and a nurturing environment can bring about a productive, responsible adult.
Importance of Cultivating Good Gati (Habits/Character)

9. One important cross-connection is matching “gati” with similar “gati” that we have discussed before; see “Habits and Goals” and “Saṃsāric Habits and Āsavas.”

  • For example, when a gandhabba is waiting for a suitable womb, the anantara-samanantara paccayā comes into play. A gandhabba, who in previous lives had developed a particular habit, say heavy drinking, is attracted to a womb of a woman with similar habits, possibly an alcoholic or a drug user. The concept of a gandhabba is in “Manomaya Kaya (Gandhabba) and the Physical Body” and “Out-of-Body Experience (OBE) and Manōmaya Kāya.”
  • Similarly, a gandhabba, who in previous lives led moral lives, is bound to be attracted to a mother’s womb in a “good” family. Like in the above case, the samanantara for the gandhabba (where it can establish itself) is an environment that matches its own “gati.”
  • However, no matter how one is born, one can still change one’s destiny by making conditions for other good kamma vipāka to come to fruition and by making sure not to create conditions for bad kamma vipāka to come to fruition.

In other posts, we will discuss further applications of anantara-samanantara relations. One important discussed in “Transfer of Merits (Pattidāna)- How does it Happen?“.

Next in the series, “Āsevana and Aññamañña Paccayā.”

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